Thursday, December 18, 2008

“Hello, I’m hangin’ on your every word, you know…” My cell-phone sang and I wriggled into a more convenient corner of the dressing room. Rustling yards of shimmering, white material out of the way, I found my phone and answered. “Are you busy?” April asked me and a spark of mischief ignited within. “I’m just…well…trying on wedding dresses.” Silence. Then, “I’m not sure I heard you right…did you say you’re trying on wedding dresses?” “Uh,” I answered, doing my best to sound hesitant. “Yeah.” Silence again. Then, “Am I allowed to ask questions?” I laughed. “Sure,” I answered. “I’m trying on wedding dresses for a friend who’s getting married.” Then came her long, relieved, “Oh.”

I arrived at Choices just as Becky and April were preparing to pray. Hardly late at all. Apparently April had related my prank. Becky was disappointed I didn’t come dolled up. And then began the task of training April. Nobody told me that everyone else would be gone, so I found myself solely responsible for her behavior. April can be very difficult to control, but today she proved to be so nervous about getting everything right that she behaved beautifully. It was an odd mix of my two worlds—campus meets crisis. “When the phone rings,” I began and was promptly cut off by the obliging phone. “Here, you answer it.” Her big, brown eyes grew even bigger as she stared at me. “Are you serious?” I grinned. “Yes, you’ll be fine.” I didn’t point out that we have caller ID and I could see that it was a familiar person—in fact, one who knew April. Reluctantly she reached out and lifted the received. “Choices, this is April.” “Hello,” the voice came over the other end. “Can I talk to Abigail?” She practically shoved the phone down my throat in her eagerness to be rid of it. And I thought I hated phones. April will make an excellent mentor or receptionist as soon as she realizes how capable and perfect she is for the job.

Three o’clock rolled around and we waved good-bye to the little, tan house. This is the last time I’ll work the front desk or run copies or answer the phone in two-thousand and eight. Who knows what I’ll be doing when I come back next year?

It’s the end of the year and I’m not sure what to read these days. In thinking of the upcoming celebration of Jesus’ Advent (“It means coming,” Papa says. “Why don’t they just call it His coming?”) I turned to Isaiah for some of the most sadly beautiful prophecies of the Savior. Chapter fifty-three is always one of my favorites, because I am not so unlike the rest of those who hope in Jesus—and this chapter is so full of hope—through pain. “Surely our griefs He bore and our sorrows He carried.” But we didn’t get it. We thought God was punishing Him—and He was, but for our sin! Like a whipping boy of ancient times, “the chastening for our well-being fell on Him and by His stripes we are healed. All of us have gone astray like sheep, but Yahweh has caused our iniquity to fall on Him.” Then the contrast between us, who went astray like stupid sheep and Jesus, who was the perfect sacrifice lamb, silent before His accusers. Because, had He answered them and purchased His own life, ours would have been forfeit. Instead, He is allotted a portion with the great because he poured our Himself to death, He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners. In the gospel—Jesus—we see the culmination of God’s eternal plot and the story He plays out again and again through history, past, present and future: first the cross and then the crown. Even Jesus had to learn obedience through the things He suffered. Yahweh was pleased to crush Him as an offering, but as a result, Yahweh will see it and be satisfied. Often it seems we are called to suffer as well. When I cry out for answers why, I am brought to my knees at the foot of the cross. For God’s glory, is the answer, and for my good. I will learn obedience through the things I suffer. Because of Jesus suffering, I was justified. My own suffering works for my sanctification. And always, always, Jesus stands by me, having born more pain and anguish than any human ever could. He is my perfect Comforter.

Lord, I always seek relief
When I should seek renewed belief
That Thou art good and doest good
Whatever I misunderstood.

Thy Son, who bore our grief and shame
Learned to rejoice in through hellish pain
By fixing His own eyes on Thee
And pressing toward eternity.

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